Plenty of locals have been getting excited lately about newly introduced concepts for bars and restaurants on The Strand.
People have been talking about it. A transformation was hoped for, and everyone was eagerly waiting to see what would happen.
I was among the curious and was hoping for something fresh, new and inspiring. I envisaged something sensational. Something that would draw people back.
A few new restaurants have opened, some are on the market, and others are half way through their refurbishments. A number of them are so well known that they'll probably never change but, so far, I haven't seen a lot that really excites me.
I am not an overly active Twitter user but I thought I'd comment on it with a tweet on Saturday. I mentioned some of the new restaurants on The Strand and asked: could they not come up with something more original?
Fellow tweeters seemed to agree, like @charlise72 who replied: "Just what Tauranga needs, more of the same", and @ianashworth who said: "It'll change again within a year.
Nothing seems to last on The Strand."
Don't get me wrong, I appreciate good food and I'm sure the décor, atmosphere and service of the new establishments will be fantastic. The issue I have is that in my view, the concepts lack originality. I am simply looking at it from a consumers' perspective. Don't we all like to be spoiled for choice?
Tweeting some more, I suggested an Indonesian or Caribbean restaurant for Downtown Tauranga. That would be different, something that's not on offer anywhere else in the Bay - a quick Google search tells me the nearest Indonesian restaurant is in Napier - and the respective cuisines are incredibly tasty, too.
To this, @eRiQcreations tweeted: "What Tauranga needs is a good Greek! - I miss my souvlaki - soutzouki - giros and a glass of Retsina!"
The punch was given by @ianashworth, who said: "Big shame. I love Tauranga but it could be so much more. If it wants to be a viable alternative to Akl, it has so much to do."
Just go for a walk along The Strand and count how many of the restaurants offer pizza, curry, pasta, or burgers and chips. The answer is most of them, and I think that is far too many.
Why do business owners seem to take a safe bet every time? Is it because curries, burgers, tacos, pizzas and tortellini are liked by most people and fairly easy and cost-effective to make? A restaurant can offer it for around $25 a plate and the idea is that punters will come.
I think that the lack of originality of what's on offer is what keeps the punters away. Where is the vision? What's wrong with taking a calculated risk after conducting a little research by asking potential customers what they would like? Isn't that what business is all about?
On the website www.downtowntauranga.co.nz our local culinary choices are described like this: "You're spoilt for choice Downtown Tauranga. Choose from over 69 restaurants, cafes and bars. Savour the flavours of the world".
On Tourism Bay of Plenty's website www.bayofplentynz.com it says: "Award winning cafes and restaurant line our beaches, harbours and city centres."
Meanwhile, www.bestoftauranga.com takes it a step further: "You are in luck, because Tauranga has you spoilt for choice when you need a restaurant, cafe or bar. There are restaurants at every turn, whether in Tauranga or the Mount."
A year or two ago, I would automatically head to The Strand when I felt like eating out. Now I go elsewhere, as The Strand doesn't excite me anymore. My hopes are set on the redevelopment of the Grumpy Mole as we know at this stage is that there are plans for a $1 million three-storey building and that it will house a new restaurants.
All I ask is for it to be a little different. I would love to see the area revitalised. New and exciting hospitality concepts will bring me, and my wallet, back to The Strand.
Martine Rolls is a Tauranga writer and digital strategist - sweetorange.co.nz